TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — After the Houston Cougars had to deal with a hurricane and devastating flooding in their home city, they finally got back to playing football Saturday night.
And gave Major Applewhite his first victory as a head coach.
Ex-Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen threw for 225 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted twice in his first game for Houston and the Cougars had to hold on to beat Arizona 19-16 in their week-delayed season opener.
"I'm really, really proud of our players. They've been through a lot," Applewhite said. "Fortunately, not many were affected by the flood but just the circumstances of being 19, 20, 21, 22 years old, just all the stuff they've been dealing with."
John Leday's 81-yard kickoff return set up Houston's go-ahead touchdown with 45 seconds left in the first half.
Josh Pollack kicked three field goals for Arizona (1-1), the last, from 42, yards cut the lead to 19-16 with 8:32 to play.
Khalil Tate replaced Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins early in the fourth quarter and the Wildcats were at the Houston 32 when Garrett Davis' interception with 3:49 remaining preserved the win.
Dawkins, who returned for the final three minutes, fumbled the ball away twice, one for a safety, in the second half.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said Dawkins "got a little nicked up. I am not going to elaborate. I'm not a doctor."
Asked how Dawkins played, Rodriguez said, "I don't know if anybody offensively played really well. I'll have to watch the film. It wasn't our best effort."
Allen, one of the nation's top recruits from suburban Phoenix in 2013, started 14 games and played in 20 for Texas A&M before transferring to Houston. He sat out last season as a redshirt. He said he didn't find out until Saturday that he would start.
"I've waited a year and a half, two years and it was just really good to get back out there," he said, "with a new squad, with a lot of guys I'm really close with, a lot of guys I trust a lot and really care about."
Allen said the issues that led to the interceptions are easily correctable.
Applewhite said he thought Allen "did fine."
"It was good to see him play," Applewhite said. "I hadn't seen him play in two years."
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